This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. With the drama of the 17-day government shutdown over, the spotlight returned this week to the troubled rollout of the Obamacare insurance exchanges. Both Republicans and Democrats expressed anger over the crippled HealthCare.gov website during hearings that were conducted this week, but of course there are competing agendas, as there always are.
Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican and Tea-Party darling, was in Iowa Friday headlining a fundraising dinner for the state Republican Party. It was Cruz's third visit to Iowa in as many months, but this time was different.
It was his first time back since the government shutdown and his 21-hour, anti-Obamacare talkathon that preceded it — events that catapulted him from junior senator to a conservative hero and household name.
This has not been an easy month for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.
Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas — who learned the political ropes working for Sebelius' father-in-law, then a Kansas congressman — called for her to step down over the debut of HealthCare.gov, the problem-plagued website where people are supposed to apply for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
As we just heard, Republican Party approval ratings are lower than ever, but that's not stopping Texas Senator Ted Cruz from taking a post-shutdown victory lap in Iowa tonight. Cruz is headlining the state Republican Party's annual Reagan dinner and he's often talked about as a potential presidential candidate. Iowa, of course, holds the first presidential caucus. NPR's Tamara Keith is in Des Moines to hear the speech and she joins us now. Hey there, Tamara.
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And I'm Melissa Block. We're going to focus now on the aftermath of the government shutdown and the fight over the debt ceiling. The past few weeks have been tough on Republicans. The fight failed to defund or delay the health care law, as they'd hoped. And it drove public approval of the GOP to historic lows. But is that enough to keep some in the party from attempting another shutdown in the months ahead? NPR's S.V. Date reports.
Last week's death of Florida Republican Bill Young left a seat open in the House of Representatives. Young represented a closely divided district. The election to replace him will be the first one in a swing district since the government shutdown and debt ceiling battles earlier this month. Congressman Young was buried yesterday.
The governor has not yet picked a date for the election to replace him, but the race is expected to be expensive, and recent events in Washington are likely to fuel the debate. NPR's Don Gonyea reports.
And now to our Friday political commentators E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and David Brooks of The New York Times. Welcome back to you both.
DAVID BROOKS: Good to be here.
E.J. DIONNE: Good to be with you.
BLOCK: So this week, Angela Merkel apparently joining the list of world leaders whose cell phones have been monitored by the NSA. And it was enough to draw in a cry of enough is enough from the French European Commissioner Michel Barnier, talking to the BBC.